My family and I are adjusting to living in the population-dense city of Corona, CA. While Corona is not as populated as its neighboring Orange County or Los Angeles County residences, it is substantially more peopled than our prior residence in Bullitt County, Kentucky. There, we could not hit our neighbor’s house by throwing a rock. Here, we must be careful to turn from our neighbors when we sneeze.
At any rate, we have been fascinated to watch how Christians have responded to booming populations. In Corona, there are about 4,000 people per square mile. And there are about 2.5 churches per square mile. Driving home from our wonderful new church (FBC Norco), my wife and I noticed several church plants. In fact, there were two church plants in a single commercial distribution facility. We passed them both and noticed their names. As a kind of thought experiment, I asked my wife which of the two she would prefer.
Think about which church you would choose. The first church we came across in this industrial/commercial complex was called “Led by the Holy Spirit Worship Center.” Clearly, they desire to fulfill the spirit of Galatians 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
The second church advertised itself as “The Word of Truth Gospel Church.” Clearly, this congregation hopes to keep in step with the spirit of Jesus’s own prayer to the Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” So, which church would you choose: The one led by the Holy Spirit or the Word of Truth?
My savvy wife ended up turning the question back on me. So, here is my short reply (and admittedly a reply ignorant of any knowledge about either church beyond its name). Given only the names, I would lead my family to the “Word of Truth” church over the “led by the Holy Spirit” church. The reason is simple: One church stands or falls on experience, while the other stands or falls on an eternal, unchanging word.
I am very much in favor of being led by the Holy Spirit—without the Spirit there would be no new birth (Jn 3) and no helper to call to our minds the Word of Christ (Jn 14:26). Without the Spirit, our prayers would be impossible, for He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, and He reminds us that we are children of God and are thus able to cry out to our Father in heaven (Rom 8:12-27). The Holy Spirit empowers us to love and to good works. We cannot live the Christian life apart from the Spirit.
Nevertheless, the foundation for our faith is not the Spirit but the Word—the living Word of God who put on skin and came to live on the earth in the midst of a crooked and perverse, sin-filled people. The living Word of God in the person of Christ is the foundation of our faith. Christ is the eternal Word, whose work has wrought our salvation. The Holy Spirit applies, empowers, and recalls to us the work of Christ. Christ is foundational–the author of our faith.
This distinction is slightly forced because both Christ and the Holy Spirit are one unity with the Father (the Trinity). Nothing I have said should be taken to imply division between Christ and the Spirit. But it is necessary for us to keep Christ first, for some in the name of the Spirit act as though the Spirit has the right to overrule the Word. They allow experience to trump the Word.
For example, I spoke with a man who believed he should divorce his wife because she wasn’t as spiritually mature as he was. He believed the Spirit was leading him to get a divorce (his third). Another woman I know thought the Spirit was leading her to an adulterous affair. After all, God wants us to be happy, right? In both cases, experiences (and fleshly desires) were running roughshod over the clear teaching of the Scripture. The Word of God forbids such behavior (Matthew 19:1-11).
So, my conclusion is, first, to say that we ought not separate the Trinity! We need both Spirit and Word. But if you are forced to choose a Spirit church over a Word church, stick with the Word. The eternal Word of God will correct your fleshly appetites and guide you in the way of salvation. Your experiences need God’s interpretive guide—that occurs when you are led by Christ’s words, obeying all that He commands you.
Good to have your post back, and a very good one too. Upon the fact we have been searching for one as well, we have visited a few in the past 4 weeks, some seem to simply wish to please the congregation more than relay the word, and seem to think only heaven exist, others seem to take it very serious the concept that the gospel is as serious as it gets pertaining to the fact, Hell does exist as well as heaven does and how awful it would be for anyone to take lightly the nature of the Gospel and forgo heaven. God Bless you Brother Greg, and you’re family.
Sure wish you would have stayed where you was.
Thanks, Earl. I have wished the same thing many times, but I trust the Lord has good purposes for us all. Trust him.
I’d have to agree with you, Greg. Experiential mileage varies… 😉
I go with the word. HE only ask that we obey and love. The Holy Spirit is to help us in his absence. Fun game, how ever like I heard at a revival. ” If you don’t go to Church because they only talk about sin. Then you only have went to church once.” So I feel there more is going in the Church than the name reveals.
Please tell you heard of the saying never judge a book by it’s cover. Hence, my question… Did you even visit either church, before writing this lengthy blog post about them? If you didn’t I would have to say that is a pretty ignorant in my opinion and dare I say foolish by the Words standard. Visit a church before you assume the full Trinity is not being valued or the whole Truth of the Word is not being preached. I go to neither I actually attend church at FREE CHAPEL in Irvine and am a recent transplant from South County OC to Corona. Probably won’t stay here much longer cause in my opinion this place is a bit more ghetto than I would like. I expect little thinking from someone from Kentucky and I feel that I can say that cause I am an originally from a small town in Texas. I just never had that small minded thinking. Thank You GOD, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT, AND THE WORD. LOL NO PUN INTENDED! OK SOME PUN
Mel, thanks for the comment. I hope you’re joking in your comment. I’m pretty sure that nearly everyone who read the post could tell that it was not intended to be a judgment on either church. I gladly acknowledged in the post that I knew nothing about either church other than the name. The point had very little to do with either church beyond the names. The names were employed as a thought experiment to demonstrate a common tension within Christianity, namely, the role and authority of religious experience in relation to revealed truth.
While I am glad you feel mentally liberated by your transition from Texas to Orange County, I can assure you that I know many folks in small towns in Kentucky whose thinking capacity far exceeds either yours or mine. I don’t mind if you think I’m ignorant. I said as much myself in the blog post. But I find it strikingly hypocritical that your main point is not to judge a book by its cover, and yet you have wrongly judged people from Kentucky.